A Small School on the Coast of Maine Raises $7,525 Through Unique Read to Feed 2014 Campaign, Raising Grand Total to $16,525 since 2008
The West Bath School, 150 students Grades K-5, began their 6th annual Read to Feed campaign led by former teacher and now librarian, Mrs. Elena Desjardins (Mrs. D). Three weeks into the campaign, Ethan Reno, a 4th grader, approached Mrs. D saying, “I want to help you inspire more students to join Read to Feed this year because I want to help save more children.” She answered, “Well, how would you like to work with me as our school's Read to Feed Ambassador?” With this, these two embarked on a unique Read to Feed campaign setting two goals: a school goal of raising at least $3,000 in order to surpass the previous year's amount, and a loftier 'Dream Goal', to raise $5,000 to buy a Heifer Ark.
Mrs. D kicked off the campaign by showing the video story of 'Beatrice's Goat'. She also designed a math lesson with examples of possible funds raised from students who might obtain one, five, and even 12 sponsors. “We did the math which proved that along with the books read, the key to raising more money lies in the number of sponsors recruited. The mantra became, 'The Power is in the Sponsors...with more sponsors, an Ark is possible!” She also showed weekly Heifer YouTube video clips about Read to Feed, the value of livestock, and how the animals are shipped across the ocean. Also, Maine Heifer volunteer, Jane Elwell, came to West Bath School and shared her photos of her Heifer Peru trip, showing Heifer recipients at an actual 'Passing on the Gift' ceremony. Witnessing the full circle of Heifer's work was a powerful connection that left the students feeling even more inspired.
After, a teacher said, “Wow, Heifer is the real deal, not just a money machine operation, but truly makes an impact in the lives of the impoverished...I'll donate!"
Three weeks in, 62 students had signed up for Read to Feed. To inspire more to join, Mrs. D introduced Ethan as the School's RtoF ambassador at a school-wide Read to Feed presentation assembly, where donned in their Heifer's 'Kids Can Change the World' T-shirts, read the book, Faith the Cow, explaining how Dan West started Heifer International. Ethan showed photos of the real Dan West, Faith the Cow and happy families receiving Heifer livestock. He unveiled the inspirational Read to Feed posters he had created, that were later hung around the school along with photographs of the presentation taken by Ethan's mother as reminders to work for Read to Feed. As a motivational tool, Ethan and Mrs. D shared their Read to Feed slogan, which incorporated words from the school's Code of Conduct: “Read to Feed and have Compassion, Persevere and Make it Happen!” Ethan appealed to the students who had not signed up by handing them another enrollment form, this time with a personal handwritten invitation from him asking parents to re-consider signing up their child in an effort to help feed more children by reaching the dream goal of earning an Ark. Mrs. D and Ethan invited the staff to participate as well. Ethan proclaimed, “Dreams can come true, and it all starts with you!” Ethan and Mrs. D concluded the assembly by showing and signing along with Heifer's music video, 'Say Love', and they handed out Read to Feed bookmarks and Heifer pins to all. After, a teacher said, “I am so impressed with the presentation; it moved my heart to want to participate.”
Within 2 weeks of Ethan's appeal, a total of 90 students had joined the campaign; up from 62! Some students who had already signed up were inspired to raise their personal RtoF goal to work for an Ark. Paxton, a 1st grader who had raised the most money the previous year, was inspired to say, “Mrs. D, Read to Feed is one of the best programs at West Bath School.” When she asked why he thought so, he said it was “Because IT SAVES LIVES!” Ethan even inspired Mrs. D to participate in the fundraising along with the students. She set a goal of $500 to match Ethan's goal. Having Mrs. D set a goal and becoming an actual participant motivated the students to another level. “We felt like we were truly all in this quest together as a team to earn an Ark.” Ethan worked after school and during his recess time with Mrs. D to create a large Read to Feed banner that was hung in the gymnasium; a landscape depicting livestock reading books under the Read to Feed slogan, along with a big tree whose leaves were a small photo of every student participant. They also worked to script a 'radio-like' broadcast over the intercom called, 'Read to Feed Friday'. Ethan reported the amount of online donations to date along with facts about how Heifer was Founded 70 years ago, where and how Heifer works and the value of 3 Heifer animals. Ending each broadcast, Ethan announced, “Stay tuned next week for 3 more animals!"
New this year to the campaign, Mrs. D added an online donation option by creating a Read to Feed fundraising web page, provided by Heifer International, which stated the school's mission and goals. Linked to the school web page, students were able to create their own web page and set a personal fundraising goal. Children and parents eagerly checked the web page after school to watch the donations come in. Mrs. D did a weekly check-in of the web page with the students during their library class. “It was very exciting to see my students' genuine anticipation and excitement as I logged onto the web page to reveal the amount of online donations. It helped keep Read to Feed alive and well in our minds and hearts.” All the cash and checks that came in was counted and kept 'secret' until the end of the campaign to create anticipation regarding the 'dream goal'... “Mrs. D, did we get the Ark?!” “We'll all find out at our Read to Feed celebration!”
On several Thursdays after school, the outreach team consisting of Mrs. D, Ethan, Ethan's mother Shannon, Ethan's classmate Maddy and her grandmother, Ellen, visited and appealed to the local business community. Ethan shared the Read to Feed project with them and even the District's High School Interact Club was inspired to make a donation. A total of $1,000 was raised from this community outreach. Businesses said “they were happy to have the opportunity to support their local school support a great cause like Heifer International.”
Two and a half months after the campaign began, a Read to Feed celebration was held, which followed the school's Talent Show and farewell for the summer. Ethan and Mrs. D handed out Read to Feed certificates to all 90 student participants and announced the names of the 14 students who raised $100 or more. The 4 classes that raised the most money were awarded pizza parties and all other classes received a popsicle party. The three top earners raised $330, $355 and $570 respectively; they were given Heifer stuffed animals as prizes. Ethan, the 1st place winner, decided to give his stuffed animal to the Kindergartener who had earned the most money in the spirit of Heifer's 'Passing on the gift'. The other stuffed animals were raffled off to all the student participants. Two, who had previously won animals, followed suit and passed on their gifts to others also following Heifer's unique requirement that recipients become donors.
Mrs. D announced that a total of 1,250 books were read during the campaign and the gigantic check with the 'secret' amount raised of $7,318 was finally unveiled. There was a roaring cheer and round of applause from the students, teachers and visitors! The students were beyond thrilled to have reached their Dream Goal of earning a Heifer Ark...and then some! Mrs. D announced that “dreams can come true if you believe and persevere.” She thanked Ethan for “shining his light on this campaign.”
The surprise guest, the daughter of Heifer's founder Dan West, Jan West Schrock, was introduced as the lady who wrote Give a Goat, the children's story Mrs. D read to the whole school previously. As the student ambassador, Ethan was so happy and honored to present Jan with the school's Read to Feed check. Jan said her “father would be very proud of the students at the West Bath School who made a big difference in the world.”
Money continued to come in even after the celebration was over. The final count, $7,525.
The 6-year grand total raised for Heifer, $16,525.